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Mac OS X 10.3.7: FireWire issues

Mac OS X 10.3.7: FireWire issues

Issues concerning the disconnection of FireWire drives during the update process

Disconnect all FireWire devices before installing It's a procedure we've recommended several times in the past, and now it's now appearing in Apple's Mac OS X release notes.

Prior to installing Mac OS X 10.3.7, Apple suggests:

"If you have a third-party FireWire hard drive connected, turn it off and disconnect it before installing this update. Reconnect it and turn it back on after installation is complete and you've restarted."

This includes iPods, as the iPod is indeed a FireWire hard drive. Reader Bill Kempthorne discovered the possible consequences of not heeding Apple's advice:

"I saw the note about 'third-party' firewire drives [but] it didn't really register that my [40GB 3G] iPod would be one of them...[After installing the update] I went to grab my iPod and found a CD with a check-mark on the screen. Upon restarting the iPod had no music. I plugged it back into my G5 and iTunes complained that it was unreadable. While the iPod mounted all the other data on the drive was also gone. I have run the restore from the iPod updater and I am now re-syncing my iPod."

Disconnection of FireWire devices during the update process was also an issue with the Mac OS X 10.3.6 updater. For that release, a number of users have reported data loss or drive corruption, both of which were avoided by properly unmounting then disconnecting your FireWire drive prior to beginning the update process.

What to do if you left a FireWire drive connected during the update and had problems Unfortunately, a number of readers were not aware of the aforementioned warning (disconnect all FireWire drives while installing Mac OS X 10.3.7), and as a result have either lost data or found their drives unable to mount.

Some users have been able to solve this problem by re-applying the most recent firmware update for their FireWire drive (check your drive manufacturer's Web site for the latest release).

One MacFixIt reader writes:

"Forgot to disconnect my LaCie FireWire (Porsche Design) 160 GB drive during 10.3.6- 10.3.7 update and it appears that I scrambled the up-to-date firmware that I had recently installed on, and which was working fine with, 10.3.6. DiskWarrior (DW) was initially used to clear up things (several runs) but had only one successful mounting of the LaCie at start-up. After that, only dialogue screens informing me of the 'unknown' status of the LaCie. I then re-installed the firmware update (which the LaCie readily accepted!) erased and zeroed out the LaCie, and then restored my files in a cloning fashion using SD. So far so good as I write this from a LaCie boot. With the one good mount after using DW, one might want to rescue files before erasing the drive, or simply try the firmware update and then use DW. 2004 PM 2G Dual, 2.5 G RAM, OS 10.3.7, current versions of SD, DW and LaCie firmware.

Others have found that this problem affects FireWIre devices other than hard drives. In some cases, the problem can be resolved simply by using Apple's Disk Utility to repair permissions.

One reader writes:

"I didn't think/realize that 'external hard drive' would mean my FireWire Que CD/RW, so I left it attached (and a CD presumably mounted) on a 10.3.5 -> 10.3.7 upgrade.

"On reboot, no mount.

"Repair Permissions on the drive found /System/Library/Filesystems/cd9660.fs/cd9660.util with missing setuid perms (was 0755, s/b 4755), and fixed it. [...] All good after the reboot."

So, how does one update a FireWire drive boot volume to Mac OS X 10.3.7 if it must be disconnected at the time of installation? The warning that users should disconnect all FireWire devices during installation of Mac OS X 10.3.7 has left a number of readers asking "If we have to disconnect external FireWire drives before installing the update, how do we update external FireWire boot drives to 10.3.7?"

There are a couple of ways you can deal with this dilemma.

First, if you have an internal volume, you can apply Mac OS X 10.3.7 to it and then use a tool like Carbon Copy Cloner to mirror the installation on your FireWire drive.

Alternatively, you can bite the bullet and boot from the external drive then upgrade it. Make sure you perform a full backup first, however.

Resolving issues with FireWire devices not mounting, disappearing, etc.

Temporarily Disconnecting drives Joe Winogradof confirms that temporarily disconnecting power from FireWire drives can, in some cases, restore proper operation:

"After updating to 10.3.7, I tried to mount two FireWire drives - no go. Restarting didn't work. Then I restarted, and removed the power cords from both drives, waiting at least 10 seconds before trying to mount the drives again. That worked. Since then, no sudden unmounting from the Tekserve drive. So, unplugging the power cable from the drive and waiting 10 seconds before plugging it back in helps with these problems."

Re-applying the combo updater Re-applying the Mac OS X 10.3.7 combo updater may help restore connectivity to FireWire devices that were made unrecognizable after the first attempt at updating:

MacFixIt reader Hal Stoen writes:

"I installed the Mac OS X 10.3.7 update from the 'Software update' link. Of course, as already mentioned, there was no warning when using this method about disconnecting any firewire drives. Before doing the download I started up off of the OSX install disc and ran permissions repair and disc repair. Did the download and then ran the repairs again off of the install disc. My firewire components, a Que firewire CD burner and an Epson scanner were gone, not even showing up in the "About this Mac" as being on the buss. I downloaded the 'combo updater' from Apple's site (great fun what with the files large size on a dial-up connection). Did the OSX permissions and repair thing before and after the install and now my firewire devices are back. Don't think that I'll ever use the 'Software Update' link again unless Apple starts issuing warnings on the link.

FireWire drive disconnection issues MacFixIt reader Gloria Baciewicz writes "I too have had Fire Wire external hard drive problems since upgrading to 10.3.7. I am using a G4 powerbook and Maxtor 160 Gb FireWire drive. My problem is mostly with ejecting the drive when i wish to take my computer to another room. Either the drive will not eject properly or it looks like it has ejected properly but I still get the 'device disconnected improperly' message. If I try to reconnect the drive it will not mount, though it generally mounts on restart.

"My iPod is connected to the Maxtor Drive. It will show up at restart but disappears after a few hours, even though the Maxtor drive is still visible."

Switch to USB port for problematic FireWire devices Though it may seem like a common sense workaround, it's worth mentioning that devices with both FireWire and USB connectivity can sometimes provide more reliable functionality with the USB connection when FireWire issues arise with an incremental Mac OS X update, like 10.3.7.

For instance, MacFixIt reader Dick Jacobs writes:

"We upgraded to iMac G-5 in September and loaded Mac OS X 10.3.7 when it became available. All worked well until this week when our external firewire drive disappeared from the screen; we went online for a work around and Apple reports this is most frequent with the on-line update, so we downloaded the 10.3.7. and reloaded. It brought up the external disk, but froze the computer and then disappeared. So we hooked the drive to USB port and it works fine."

Another reader, Charles Alexander, adds:

"After the update my Mac would not recognize an old 20 gig 2nd generation iPod and new 20 gig Mac/PC model; both of which can't be seen through the Firewire ports. But, my new iPod can be seen through the USB port!"

Make sure your firmware is up-to-date Make sure your FireWire drive's firmware is up-to-date (check the manufacturer's Web site) if you are experiencing any issues under a newly released incremental Mac OS X update.

Time and again, users have found that non-mounting, or constantly disappearing FireWire drives are problem-free after applying the latest firmware. Case in point, MacFixIt reader Ricardo:

"After upgrading to 10.3.7 our external Firewire drive on a G4 iMac started to get disconnected all on its own. I could turn the drive off, then on again and the drive would mount. But a few minutes later it would disappear. This was very frustrating specially since we have our iTunes collection (with TiVo Desktop) on that drive. Eventually I found a firmware update from the vendor, and installing that brought back the drive to it?s normal healthy status. If Apple really wants people to unmount Firewire drives before software updates they should make that very clear, up-front on the install screen."

Extra FireWire adapter also does not function properly In a number of previous FireWire problem scenarios, we've recommended a separate FireWire bridge in the form of a PCI FireWire adapter.

As evidenced by MacFixIt reader Bart Viaene, however, adding a separate FireWire bridge will not -- in most cases -- resolve software related issues like those introduced by Mac OS X 10.3.7:

"I own a blue and white G3, 350MHz. It was running Mac OS X 10.3.6 happily.

"After using Software Upgrade to automatically install to 10.3.7 (flawlessly), I noticed that the FireWire connections were down. Suspecting a hardware malfunction, I opened the G3 and checked the plugs : all OK there.

"I went to the store and bought a Keyspan PCI FireWire 400 card, which I installed in under 1 minute, no software installer needed. But no go : these 3 new FireWire ports did not function either. Now, I suspect a software problem, related to the 10.3.7 upgrade."

FireWire drives causing kernel panics if connected at startup MacFixIt reader Emyr Williams reports that, in some cases, having a FireWire drive attached at startup under Mac OS X 10.3.7 can cause kernel panics. As such, we recommended that when experiencing problems with the devices, users wait to connect FireWire drives until their Mac OS X system has completed startup.

Williams writes:

"I have an external LaCie 40gb drive attached to my Pismo. Since installing 10.3.7 when I start the computer with the drive switched on I get a grey screen telling me to hold down the power button to re boot the computer. If I boot the computer with hard drive switched off the computer starts up and I can then switch on the drive with no problems."

FireWire ports non-functional Paul Vitello reports that his FireWire ports are not functional at all, and not recognized by System Profiler after the Mac OS X 10.3.7 -- likely an isolated and extremely rare incident:

"Sometime after I ran the Mac OS X 10.3.7 update I could not connect my sony dv camcorder and after some digging I realized that the system is not seeing the FW400 ports on my 1ghz MDD mac at least not in the system profiler. The FW800 bus is showing up though. I checked my 17AL book (also on 10.3.7) in the sys prof and they both showed up. (the FW400 ports seem to be working on the PB)."

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